Superman. Batman. Captain America. From their beginnings in the late 1930s, superheroes have always been larger-than-life heroes. They are willing to make sacrifices to save us from harm in ways ordinary humans cannot.
Kids idolize superheroes. In one of the best parts in The Dark Knight Rises, John Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), a young police officer, tries to help out Gotham’s children. One kid sketches Batman’s symbol with chalk, hoping Batman will return.
On the surface, we like Batman because of his mansion, or his Batmobile, or his other cool gadgets. Or Superman because he can fly. But there is an essential component to a superhero: The willingness to protect ordinary citizens from harm.
Batman’s entire ideal rests upon his being an anonymous protector who inspires goodness to the city. After Harvey Dent’s death in The Dark Knight, Batman knew he must take the blame for Dent’s sins. “Because I’m not a hero, not like Dent. I killed those people. That’s what I can be,” he tells Commissioner Jim Gordon.
He was able to surrender everything to heal the city. “I’m whatever Gotham needs me to be,” he says.
But as the The Dark Knight Rises begins, it becomes apparent that Batman taking the blame for killing Harvey Dent, and Gordon lying to the entire city for eight years, is not what Gotham needs.
In a way, Rises parallels Batman Begins. Batman gets in shape, gets a shiny new toy, and is chased by the police his first night in town.
Then he fights Bane, and loses. Bane ships him off to an underground Middle Eastern (?) prison, where escaping means rising from the depths by climbing up a well.
Batman rising from the prison is my favorite scene in the entire trilogy. He twice attempts the climb up the pit, only to fall. It captures the heart of Batman Begins with Bruce father telling him, “We fall so that we can learn to pick ourselves up.” He then realizes that to make the climb, he must do it with the fear of death, just as a child -rumored to be the only person to escape from the prison- did. He abandons the safety rope and climbs.
As an eight-year-old, Bruce fell down his family’s well and became scared of the bats inside. Now, he must rise from this pit. This prison is (presumably) thousands of miles from Gotham, but it just appears that way: He is a boy, he is in his family’s well, and he is conquering his fear.
Bruce Wayne has been the Dark Knight for about nine years. But it is not enough to just be the Dark Knight. Batman needs to rise to become -as Raus al Ghul said- more than a hero: A legend. And Bruce Wayne needs to rise to conquer his fear.
He has been taught how to fight, he has been given gadgets and armor, but none of that is enough for one man to stop Gotham’s chaos. He tried in The Dark Knight to single-handedly destroy the mob (okay, double-handedly because he teamed with Gordon). And he realized that doing so creates desperation and more enemies (Harvey Dent and the Joker).
Now, with Gotham under Bane’s control, Batman needs to stop the bomb from destroying millions of people. Twists happen, and Batman realizes the only way to save Gotham is to bring the bomb far enough into the ocean.
I admit that I was torn over the ending. Should Batman have died?
Here’s what I thought at first:
- Batman should have sacrificed himself and flown away with the bomb, a la “You either die a hero or live long enough to see yourself become the villain.” This was a crucial mantra for The Dark Knight. It would also cement Batman as a true hero.
But the more I thought about it, the more the ending where he survives does make sense. Not because Batman’s clever and figured out how to fix the autopilot. While I realize he’s smart, any non-super hero mechanic could do that.
What makes the ending satisfying is that Batman survived and could have come back to Gotham to applause, could help the city get back in order, could even become mayor with the recent vacancy! But he doesn’t, he tells no one that he survived. He gave up his mansion for children in need. He realized Gotham no longer needed Batman, and actually started living his life, something he has not done since his parents were murdered.
My theory is that Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle created clean identities and left Gotham. Bruce’s sad memories revolved around losing Rachel and his parents. As Alfred told him at the beginning of Rises, Alfred’s dream was for Bruce to move away from Gotham and start a family.
Not only did the Dark Knight rise, but Bruce Wayne rose as well. While there are questions surrounding whether Batman is a superhero, one thing is certain: Bruce Wayne becomes the hero Batman could never be.
FIRST THOUGHTS: (SPOILERS)
- Alfred looking across the cafe in Florence at the ending and seeing Bruce and Selina is reminiscent of the ending of Inception.
- I predicted that Blake would become Batman’s successor! Blake can be a force for good (like Harvey Dent). He won’t go around getting the mob or villains like Batman, he will protect the city’s children. It is no coincidence that the homeless shelter moved to Wayne Manner.
- I was thinking this movie would be more like The Dark Knight, but it was actually more similar to Batman Begins– which is good.
- Bane’s voice is off in the first scene on the plane- it’s too loud. Also, sometimes when he’s talking, if you look at his vocal chords they’re not moving or they start and end moving a couple seconds late. I’ll need to watch it again to confirm though.
- Bane vs. Batman in the sewer was epic!
- Once Bane took control of the city, why didn’t he just kill all the trapped police officers? It would be easy to flush ’em out with explosives and all those Batmobiles have the firepower.
- I think Christopher Nolan should have addressed the Joker. I saw that he wanted the Joker to be completely off-limits, but still. Here is what I’d do: One of the criminals that Judge Crane is trying could say, “How come you’re in charge?” and Crane says,”Well a clown wanted the job but I deemed him ‘criminally insane’ and had to dispose of him.”
- Other than Batman, Blake is definitely my favorite character in the trilogy.
- Commissioner Gordon’s story arc in the film is extremely weak. Yeah he kills two of Bane’s henchmen in the hospital. But that is the only cool thing he did. He was much better in the other two.
- “No offense but does your belt have something a bit more powerful?” or something similar to that… Great quote!
- A great thing the film did was address the “(Insert city here) as a vacuum” present in many stories. In the present day, it is hard for a city to be on its own that old comic books sometimes assume. In Rises, the outside world cannot interfere with Gotham or else Bane will detonate the bomb. Great plot device.
- Did anyone else think of Tony Stark flying with the nuclear bomb to take it to the portal in the Avengers when Batman is flying away with the bomb? They’re strikingly similar. It shows the difference in the two movies, though, because Tony Stark brings the missile to the portal to destroy his enemies, whereas Batman flies away with the bomb to save people. I adopted that idea from some blog post (forget which) but I thought it myself during the movie.
- Ratings for the trilogy-Batman Begins: 9.1; The Dark Knight: 9.5; The Dark Knight Rises: 9.5 but I’ll need to watch it again to see. (Compared to The Avengers: 9.2; The Amazing Spider-Man: 8.0; The Hunger Games: 8.8)
- Batman should have used more belt gadgets. Also, his EMP gun is awesome.
- Is it really that easy to weaponize a nuclear reactor into a nuclear bomb? I doubt it, even with the explanation that it would take 5 months. And shouldn’t that reactor have had more fail-safe components? For example, when you take it off its frame, that it automatically splits into two pieces so that it doesn’t become unstable?
- Gordon quotes Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities giving Bruce’s eulogy: ““It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known.” A major theme from the book is “recalled to life,” present in Batman as “rising.”
- Gotham Police Department, you rock! You defied all rational thought and sent in 3,000 police officers into the city’s mysterious, enclosed, dangerous, unknown, dark, enemy-occupied sewer system.
- “So that’s what that feels like.”
(Pictures by Warner Bros.)
4 replies on “Superhero: Batman, or Bruce Wayne? (Dark Knight Rises thoughts)”
Nice summary. Good points. Excellent writing. You have the best article I’ve read so far about the film. Kudos, Tim. Keep up the good work.
Thank you very much!
Thanks for writing this! p.s. do you know what the league of shadows had to do with the story?
Yeah Talia was a member of the league and Bane was but was cut from the league at some point. Regardless, they had the goal of destroying Gotham and Talia wanted to finish her father, Ras al Ghul’s, goal so she was part of the league and infiltrated Wayne Enterprises in secret.